Click here for Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

Friday, February 22, 2019
The inside story: two tackle manufacturers

The cod map
This time round, it’s all about the map. There are big changes in the area we’ll have access to with the opening of the boat based groundfish season, March 1. For those of you who said, “Once we lose it, we’ll never get it back,” you were wrong. While this may be the case for our MPAs, the much larger areas of the RCA (the depth limit) and CCA (Cortes, Tanner, SBI, Nic) it is definitely not true. The principal difference is California’s MPAs are preservation based, while NOAA Fisheries’ CCA and RCA are fisheries conservation based.

From Point Conception, south, we’ll be able to fish out to the PFMC’s point to point “75-fathom” line. The areas between that line and the “60-fathom” line haven’t been tapped for nearly 20 years now.

In the CCA or Cowcod Conservation Area, we were previously restricted to bottom fish in waters of just 120 feet and less. Now we’ll be able to tap areas inside the new PFMC “40-fathom” point-to-point lines.

THE MAP — Outside of the Cowcod Conservation Area (CCA) the green line is the PFMC 75-fathom point-to-point line — defining the new recreational RCA boundary, while the nearby yellow line is the 60-fathom line, where it was last season. The CCA is the big blue boxy boundary dead center. The new “40-fathom” lines (green) surround the included islands and the tops of the Tanner and Cortes banks. MPAs, international and management region boundaries also show. This is a kmz file that will load on your mobile device in Google Earth and other apps like MAPinr. This enables your phone or tablet as a hand-held plotter with your location and the new boundaries shown overlain on Google Earth. If you’d like a copy, e-mail MAP COMPILED BY MERIT MCCREA

The game fish opportunities at Santa Barbara Island (SBI) were phenomenal this past season, but the word was kept on the down low, and party boats carrying boatloads of anglers eager to spread the word didn’t see it. This was due, in a large part, to the fickle nature of game fish bites. Previously the minimal area inside 20 fathoms at SBI really restricted back-up plan options.

This made it a risky choice for any open-party adventure. Only a few private boaters and small boat charters sworn to secrecy, willing to roll the dice on game fish or nothing saw those big yellows and acres of boiling lock-jaw tuna.

But the new access comes with a caveat. Access is geographically complex. You can’t just go out and stay shallower than the nominative depth and be legal. YOU MUST KNOW THE LOCATION OF THE LINE.

Plus, fishing deep means being ready with the recompression devices, and it may take some heavy weights too. I’ll have more on this in a later issue.

For now, you can access the points at the Sportfishing Asso­ciation of California website and get busy programming them into your plotter. Here’s the link: .

Key northern areas where the new access will count include the West Bank at San Miguel Island, the deeper edge south of Santa Rosa Island, a local SB Channel reef 15 miles equidistant from Santa Barbara, Ventura and Channel Islands harbors, off Rincon.

To the south the local San Pedro, Long Beach and Newport boats will likely score big out by the rigs, near Eureka. There will be a sliver of newly tappable turf off Box Canyon and along the shelf break areas all along the drop off to the border.

Out in the CCA, of course the change will be MAJOR — all around SBI and San Nicolas Island, and both the Tanner and Cortes.

However, there are key areas where trouble awaits the sloppy skipper. These include the Finger or 12-Mile Reef in the Santa Barbara Channel — shallower than 450 feet/75 fathoms, but isolated and not included. Other similar areas shallower than the depth but not included inside the lines are the Santa Rosa Flats, the Osborn Bank, the 60-Mile Bank, Hidden Reef Pinnacle, and a substantial area along the north edge of the Tanner Bank.

The point is, you’ll want to plot the lines and not assume simply staying shallower than their nominative depth will keep you in the clear. In fact, you’ll also find a bit of space deeper than the depth, but inside the line and legal to fish, especially at the outer banks.

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Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California party boat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at:

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